Moderate Alcohol Consumption: More benefits

nutrition diet healthA recent study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition (2016) investigated the effects of alcohol on the survival of colorectal cancer patients. The results of the study showed that a history of prediagnostic abstinence from drinking, as well as heavy drinking, was associated with poorer survival of the patients. In other words, those patients that had been drinking moderately before they were diagnosed with colorectal cancer had a significantly longer survival time. Of course this does not prove that alcohol was the causative factor in this association. It could be for example, that these individuals who drank moderately also had other lifestyle habits that were protective of disease. Perhaps their diets were better. Perhaps they took more exercise. Perhaps they ate particular foods. It is not possible to identify the cause and effects of the associations in this case with this data. However, this adds more evidence to the contention that moderate alcohol consumption is beneficial to the health.

alcohol health

Alcohol in moderation may have beneficial health effects on the cardiovascular system. Alcohol consumption is also associated with a lower body weight. Phytochemical antioxidants in alcoholic drinks can certainly provide some health benefits. However, it is evident that alcohol (ethanol) also has health benefits. Current recommendations are to consume moderate amounts of alcohol. The most healthy drink appears to be red wine, and this is because it is a rich source of phytochemical nutrients from grapes, as well as having a moderate alcohol content. However, other drink do provide significant protection from disease. Therefore drinking what is palatable and desired is fine, as long as moderation is maintained.

The mainstream medical opinion is that alcohol is a toxin. This is true when the alcohol is ingested in very large amounts. However, clearly less is not better in the case of alcohol, which would be true for a classic toxic substance. Alcohol is a nutrients and can supply energy to the consumer. However, alcohol has metabolic effects outside of this energy provision. Studies have looked at the benefits of moderate alcohol consumption, but no real consensus has emerged as to how alcohol is able to protect the consumer. Drinks such as wine that contain polyphenols and other antioxidants clearly have a beneficial effect. However, studies suggest that alcohol is still beneficial even without these phytochemicals and as such there is a clear metabolic role for alcohol in health. That alcohol may protect from a number of disease suggest that the metabolic effects may be central pathways that control multiple physiological effects. Drinking moderately can therefore be a part of a healthy diet, with red wine perhaps being the best choice.

Eat Well, Stay Healthy, Protect Yourself


Walter, V., Jansen, L., Ulrich, A., Roth, W., Blaker, H., Chang-Claude, J., Hoffmeister, M. and Brenner, H. 2016. Alcohol consumption and survival of colorectal cancer patients: a population-based study from Germany. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 103: 1497-1506

About Robert Barrington

Robert Barrington is a writer, nutritionist, lecturer and philosopher.
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